Stevenson to be honored at Spirit of Hope benefit Thursday

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson will be honored at this year’s Spirit of Hope Benefit on Thursday, June 7, at Woodway Country Club.

The event will be honoring Stevenson along with Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr. from First County Bank and Michael Askew from Bridgeport Recovery Community Center.

They are being recognized for their time and energy devoted to raising money and awareness for the Liberation Programs, a not-for-profit organization helping those with addiction and recovery. A dinner and live auction will also take place during the event. Proceeds will support Liberation Programs’ new Health & Wellness Center in Bridgeport. 

The organization started its operation in 1971, with sites in Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport. It is one of Fairfield County’s leading behavioral health organizations specializing in treatment of all types of substance abuse. The organization is geared towards helping those who have addiction in families, addiction amongst the youth, and those with HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses.

With a record-breaking 1,038 overdose deaths in Connecticut in 2017, 144 of them in Fairfield County and with 35% having been residents of Bridgeport, this center is hoping to be a beacon of hope for those struggling with addiction in Fairfield County. Surrounding communities of Trumbull, Stratford, Shelton, Fairfield, and Easton will be able to access services at the center as well.

Liberation currently owns two properties at 419 and 399 Mill Hill Avenue, located close to Bridgeport Hospital. The goal is to demolish the 419 Hill Mill Avenue building this year and begin to build a new 11,2000-square-foot center in early 2019. The new location would have more than double the parking spaces of the current properties and would be able to serve more than three times the exceeded amount of patients the current locations can serve.  

With no state or federal support, the Liberation Programs are building the center with what it calls the generous support of donors. The goal is to raise $420,000 at the 2018 Spirit of Hope Gala in order to reduce the amount of debt financing needed to build the center. Borrowing less for the building process will allow the organization to offer services to a greater number of uninsured patients.

Darien’s honoree, First Selectman Stevenson, became involved with the Liberation Programs 10 years ago when it offered events at the Depot. Since then, Stevenson has made it possible for the completion of Linda & Vince McMahon Center for Women and Children, home to the Families in Recovery Program. Stevenson specifically ensured to make the space a safe and welcoming environment for toddlers.

Stevenson has also supported early education and prevention efforts outside of the Liberation Programs by working with The Community Fund of Darien’s Thriving Youth Task Force and The Depot Teen Center.

Stevenson, who is running for lieutenant governor, recently announced that if elected she would lead the state’s response to the issue of addiction in a statement released to media.

“I want the office of Lt. Governor to help coordinate and facilitate communication between the many groups and organizations fighting addiction; Law enforcement, corrections, non-profits, mental health, academic, local, state and federal government all have roles in stemming the scourge of addiction,” Stevenson said at the time.

“I want to help these various entities advocate to the governor and legislature as well as increase coordination of their efforts,” she said.

“The issue of addiction is very real to me. I am the mother of five children. The helplessness of watching your child, loved one or friend deal with addiction can rip families and communities apart. There is no one easy fix. No one program or plan,” said Stevenson.

“To fight addiction of all kinds we need to coordinate our resources, build on the successes and learn from the mistakes,” she said.

Alan Mathis, Liberation Programs’ president and chief executive officer, said “Jayme understands that what Liberation does saves lives.”

“Addiction is a community-wide issue. It affects more than just the people suffering from addiction, it affects the community,” Stevenson told The Darien Times this week.

The Spirit of Hope event will begin at 6 p.m. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit liberationprograms.org/spirit-of-hope.